Happy Heart Birthday

This was taken the morning of Jake’s surgery – June 5, 2000. You can see how blue his feet were.

This post was originally published in 2012. I’ve updated it with some new details.

Sixteen years ago today, Jake had his last heart surgery.  He was 8 months old, 11 pounds and very, very ill.  This would be his fourth surgery in his short life and the third that was literally life-saving.  He was too small for the surgery, but he was also too sick to wait.  So, we did what we had to do.  I remember with vivid clarity handing him over to the nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and watching them walk into the operating room.  In the weeks and months that followed that surgery, the doctors admitted that they had little hope that he would survive.  I heard more than one call him a miracle.  His pediatrician looked me in the eye and said, “he should not be alive”.  You can read more of his story here.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, or if you’ve known me for more than a year, you know that I say the same thing every June 5th (except for the year I forgot!).  I sound like a broken record.  I’m grateful — so grateful.  But mostly, I’m humbled that I get to be his mom.  He makes me want to be a better person.

One of the things that has always amazed me is that he just isn’t afraid of anything.  He isn’t afraid to take risks.  And, when he decides he wants to do something, he gives it his all.  And most of the time, he does it with an infectious smile on his fact.  He’s not a big kid, but he’s got big personality.  And, people are drawn to it.  These days, as he faces the weird social vibe of high school, I’ve been impressed with how comfortable he is with himself.  He’s just not afraid to be who he is, and in turn, he accepts people for who they are.  I’ve often wondered if this comes from a deep, albeit somewhat sub-conscious, realization that life is short.  I love watching him grow up and I am so excited to see what he does with his life.

Unfortunately, 1 in 100 children are born with a congenital heart defect.  The silver lining in that statistic is that my son has some role models to look up to.  I’ll never forget when he realized that Shaun White has the exact same heart defect that he has, Tetralogy of Fallot.  And, here he is…an Olympic gold medalist.  Max Page also has Tetralogy of Fallot.  Name doesn’t ring a bell?  You know him as Darth Vadar in the brilliant Volkswagen ad that first ran during the 2010 Superbowl.  Paul Cardall is a pianist with an amazing story of survival.  Tedy Bruschi was a linebacker for the New England Patriots who suffered stroke, a result of his CHD.  He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 after his return.  These people are proof that an illness does not have to define your life.  And most recently, Jimmy Kimmel’s newborn baby was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, proving once again that heart disease can affect anyone. And, it doesn’t have to be a heart defect — we all have something that we face.  These stories can inspire us all.

In June 2012, Buddy Media signed a deal to sell to salesforce.com.  I saw the tweets and the headlines in my news feed.  I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t care enough to read the story.  And then a friend sent me this you tube video that Michael Lazerow posted after the signing of the deal .  As my husband and I watched it that night, I realized that this is what I want for Jake.  I want him to never doubt himself.  To know that he can do anything.  And, to never be afraid.

Old School Baseball, Rivalries and Sportsmanship

It doesn’t help that my mood has been foul for about three days. But, there are a few things that are taking up a tremendous amount of space in my brain today. Since Twitter is generally where my evil twin hangs out, I have been trying to condense it all into 140 characters and there is just too much to say. I’ll just focus on one thing, as I tend to get long-winded. And to be honest, I wouldn’t normally be so worked up about this, were it not for the other stuff. So this might sound small and petty in the grander scheme of life, but it’s today’s brain dump.

The Phillies. I have never liked the Phillies, but I have never hated them either. In fact, the only MLB team I’ve ever really despised is the Yankees. Well, and the Braves. Mostly because I think the fans are arrogant and cocky. Yes, I’m generalizing. I met some really nice Yankees fans in Boston at a Red Sox game a couple of years ago. And, in March, I sat next to some really nice Yankee fans at a Nationals spring training game (although the Nats were playing the Mets, so that could have had something to do with it….) Anyway, when we moved here and I became a Nationals fan, I sort of laughed at the Phillies/Nationals rivalry. Mostly because I couldn’t understand the rivalry. The Phillies have been a dominant team, not only in the NL East, but in MLB in general. The Nationals haven’t. Now that I live here though, I know that the rivalry really is about more than baseball.

I went to Washington State University. I’m a lifelong Denver Broncos fan. I spent years in Seattle watching the Mariners struggle through terrible seasons. Sure, each of those teams has had success, but none of them have been dominant for very long. So, I get losing. I’m okay with it. It makes victory even sweeter, I think. And, as a result, I tend to root for the underdog when I don’t have a vested interest in the game. So, here I am, rooting for the underdog again. Pretty typical.

DC is an interesting place because in large part, everyone is “from” somewhere else. Often, the fans for the visiting team are the majority in the stadium. We experienced that in Phoenix, too — especially at Cardinals games. It’s the nature of a transient city. While I do have my favorite teams, I also have a “when in Rome” attitude, so we’ve generally always supported the hometown teams in the places we have lived.

Last year, I was given tickets to a suite by a colleague for one of the Nationals/Phillies games. We have come to expect that the stadium is usually packed with Phillies fans. And, this day was no exception. My 12 year old son and I were the only Nats fans in the suite. This would have been fine except that the Phillies fans were just plain rude. To my son. And, he wasn’t smack talking, he was simply cheering his team on. Even when they were down by a couple of runs, he was a good sport because that’s what he’s been taught to be. And when the Nats scored and took the lead, he didn’t get obnoxious. And when they won, he didn’t get in anyone’s face and scream “Phillies Suck!” No, that was behavior that I witnessed by adults in Phillies gear, who like to refer to Nats Stadium as Citizen’s Park South.

The Nats ended 2011 with 80 wins and 81 losses. There was one game that they never got to make up, so they conceivably could have finished with a .500 record. Regardless, it was a good season for a team that had been dismal in years past. The off-season proved fruitful and the fans have been excited for the new season which has started off very well. I have been around long enough to know that April doesn’t mean a lot in the larger scheme of things, but the fans were beginning to show up and stay longer and cheer louder. I’ve heard more than one person say that they have fallen in love with the Nats. And, that’s the thing that will keep fans coming back even when they get in a slump. It’s good for the team and it’s good for our city.

The marketing team came up with an idea to “Take Back the Park”, where you could pre-purchase tickets to the Phillies games only if you were from DC, MD and VA. Now, of course this didn’t mean that they weren’t going to allow any Phillies fans in the stadium (and certainly, there are plenty of them living in DC, MD and VA anyway)…but it served as encouragement for people to show up and support the home team. Additionally, the hashtag #Natitude was unveiled and the fans have embraced it. It also helps that Bryce Harper was called up from AAA and has been killing it on the field.

We have noticed a few Nationals fans getting a little cocky. A colleague of my husband’s talked some friendly smack before the Dodger games (he’s bled Dodger blue since he was a little boy). And, we saw what happened there. There’s a fine line between supporting your team and being obnoxious — and until you have a real record to stand on, it’s best to keep it low key because as any sports fan knows, anything can happen.

So, the Phillies get to town. Their fans are determined to make a showing. And, they do. And, they lose. Twice. Sunday comes and things start to get tense. Cole Hamels decided to send Bryce Harper a message and beaned him on his first at-bat. We all knew it was intentional, and he went on to admit it was. I’ve seen people praise the move, saying it was bad-ass and that Harper is arrogant and needs to respect the veterans. Bryce Harper, on the other hand, didn’t get rattled. He went on to steal home plate. Who’s the bad-ass now? Arrogant or not, kid can play. And everyone knows it. Hamels defended the move, saying he was just trying to get back to old school baseball.

What annoys me is how Phillies fans have gone on to react, insulting Nats fans, the #natitude hastag and the players in general. They cheered in the outfield when Jayson Werth broke his wrist. To me, it’s just all bad sportsmanship. It’s not a good example — by the players or the fans. And no…I didn’t like it when Zimmermann answered back. And, I’m not saying that all Nationals fans have had exemplary behavior either.

When asked about it, Harper simply said that “Hamels threw a great game tonight”.

My observation is that Harper is the one that showed class. The response I get from some Phillies fans is that I need to remember the record. Yes, the record is impressive. I’m not arguing with that. I’m talking about class, not records. I was then told that class doesn’t win division championships. Clearly not.

I do find it interesting that despite the records, this powerhouse team has only managed to beat the Nationals 3 out of the last 14 times they’ve played each other. Calling the Nats out as being pathetic doesn’t say much for the fact that they only seem to beat them about 20% of the time these days.

Look, I see nothing wrong with a rivalry. It can be fun. But, it can also make for a miserable time in the ballpark, especially when you’re trying to teach your kid some manners. If you really value old school baseball, how about going back to the days when the game was marked by a spirit of gentlemanly sportsmanship?

I respect die-hard fans, even if especially if their team isn’t that good. Baseball is about more than winning. There’s nothing better than a day at the yard. And there’s nothing wrong with some friendly smack talk. Come on out to #ourpark. Enjoy a half smoke and some Nationals hospitality (they are great fans). I’ll even buy you a beer, but only if you’re nice.

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Romans 10:9 and my love/hate relationship with Christianity

… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)

I have a love/hate relationship with Christianity. It goes something like this:

I love Jesus.

I hate that people say that one must to do something other than love Jesus in order to call themselves a Christian.

I love Jesus.

I hate that we categorize people as believers and non-believers, whom we must somehow save (or not). We forget that we don’t do the saving. God does. When we convince ourselves that we somehow have something to do with it, we are making ourselves God and that’s idolotry.

I love Jesus.

I hate that people act like they know for an absolute fact who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t. It’s as if they don’t believe that God has the power to accomplish something bigger than our minds can comprehend. Here’s an extreme example: Jeffery Dahmer in heaven? Not a chance, we say. And yet, he proclaimed himself to be a born-again Christian. We believe that Jesus performed countless miracles and was raised from the dead and yet we don’t believe that God can redeem the heart of a sinful man? At the core, that is unbelief in the gospel.

I love Jesus.

I hate that a Jesus-loving black man stood in my kitchen last week and told me that he’s been told before that because his skin is black, he is a child of Satan. There is no scripture that gives us a complete physical description of Jesus (except in Isaiah 53:2, it does say that he was rather average), but I am 99.99% sure that he doesn’t look like this:

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I love Jesus.

I hate that we use New Testament scripture as proof text as to why we are saved…and, we use Old Testament scripture as proof text as to why others aren’t. The Jesus we believe in, that we rejoice in his sacrifice and proclaim “He is Risen!” on Easter morning? He did that to fulfill those laws. Does it mean that we are to just go on sinning? No. But that is a whole study of Romans which could take months. My point is that we should be focusing on redemption and grace. Because, if we really are concerned about people, we aren’t going to do anything but drive them away by making them feel bad about themselves in Jesus’ name.

I love Jesus.

I hate that my faith gets questioned by people who think that Christians are of a certain political party. I have a whole diatribe on that, but I’ll just say that I can be a Democrat liberal and love Jesus at the same time. It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s another post for another day.

I love Jesus.

I hate that people suggest that science is in opposition to creation. If you believe that God created the universe, why is it so far fetched to believe that He used science to do it? We often refer to God as the Great Physician…why isn’t he also the Great Scientist?

I love Jesus.

I hate that we categorize sin. Sin is sin. It’s all in opposition to God and separates us from Him. Just because I can justify my act of anger toward somebody (clearly they acted a fool) doesn’t make it any less a sin than if I murdered somebody. Sound extreme? Read Matthew 5:21-22 and you’ll see what I mean. The point is not that if we get angry, we will go to hell. The point is that one sin is not bigger than the other. Still don’t buy it? Read James 2:10. Here, I’ll make it easy (but you should still look it up and not assume…)

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10 ESV)

Nobody’s sin is bigger than anybody else’s. And when we start pointing out other people’s sin (which is SO easy to do), we raise the bar infinitely higher for ourselves. What these passages are telling us, in my opinion, is that we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we need a Savior. So, to get back to my original point, we spend too much time pointing out the sins of others instead of telling and SHOWING them the good news of Christ.

There’s a quote that many attribute to St. Francis of Assisi. It says “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words”. There’s no proof that he actually said that, but I digress. It serves as arsenal for people who either want to call Christians out for the rubber not meeting the road or for those who don’t really want the burden of saying the word “Jesus” out loud in mixed company. I can call out both groups because I have landed in each one at various times in my life. I’m not proud of it, just being real. Anyway, I have heard many bible teachers that I respect greatly disagree with the sentiment, saying that we always need to use words…to do anything less would be lukewarm. I think that if all we do is use words, it can be pointless and counter-productive. I can’t just walk up to my agnostic co-worker and read scripture to him and ask if he wants to recite the sinner’s prayer now. Even *if* he didn’t tell me I was crazy and walk away, I would then have to Google a generic sinner’s prayer because I wouldn’t know anything about his life or his story in a way that would make that prayer at all meaningful. You see, I believe that you have to show the gospel in order to share the gospel. Showing it doesn’t absolve us from sharing it, but how do we build relationships otherwise? I don’t take parenting advice from people who I think are terrible parents. Why would I ask somebody about Jesus if I didn’t think they walked the walk?

So, instead, I do my best to follow what Jesus said in Matthew when asked “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

Love God. Love People. No other rules or conditions. And, essentially, I think what verse 40 is saying is that the whole of the Law and Prophets (Old Testament) is dependent on these two commandments.  Think about it, if we all loved God and loved people, what purpose would a commandment not to murder even have?  There would be no murder.

If you are like me, the commandment to love our neighbors is overwhelming.  Because Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the people that we like.  Or love the people we agree with.  We are to love all people.  How on earth do we do that!?  Well, that’s why the first commandment is to love God.  I have found that when you love God, it is easier to love people. Not easy. Easier. And honestly, I find that it’s easier to love people who are not Christians because I don’t expect as much. And, then I realize that I’m putting conditions on them (the Christians) which is exactly what I’m irritated about in the first place.

This really started out as a pithy list I had going in my mind about why I hate religion. The truth is that I don’t really hate religion, there are a lot of good things about religion; but I think it can sometimes distract us from what our mission as Christians really is. And it’s not pithy. It’s complicated. And, it’s important.  But, sometimes I just can’t shake this thought from my mind:

Seriously.

I should note that I have many Christian friends who might read this and wonder if I am judging them. If I’m honest, perhaps I am. But, the way it plays out in my mind is how I am raising the bar for myself. So, it’s a self-reflection in that regard. On the other hand, I have many non-Christian friends who might read this and wonder if the only reason I’m friends with them is to convert them. No. In fact, you are the reasons why these thoughts begin to bounce around in my head. Why I examine my own interpretation of my faith and the scriptures. Why I am constantly trying to learn more, and in that process realize that there is so much I don’t know. Why I feel so strongly about loving the people whom God has seen fit to put in my life. Why I am content to let God be bigger than I can ever imagine. And in the process of knowing me, I pray that you might get a glimpse of the Jesus that I love. And, if you ever want to know about my faith, ask me. I’m an open book.

The Gospel and Maple Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes

Let me start by saying that I am not a cook.  I can cook and I do manage to make some decent meals, thanks to cookbooks and other people’s recipes.  For the past several years, we have had groups of people meeting at our house regularly, so I’m always on the lookout for new things to serve.  I break a cardinal rule though and serve things that I’ve never actually made (or even tried) before I feed them to others.  Fortunately, this has never really been a problem.

The weekly meal started in Olympia as a group of people who all went to church together gathered weekly to share life with one another outside of Sunday worship. In the beginning, many of us didn’t even know each other at all — we just happened to live geographically close to one another.  Food has a way of bringing people together.  Think about it….put a group of strangers in a room together.  The extroverts will be able to do okay, but it can still be awkward.  If you are an introverted kind of person, it can be downright painful.  Put that same group of strangers in a room together and add food or beverages and it instantly  becomes a party.

When we began hosting these weekly gatherings, I used the meal as a way to protect myself…to give myself something to do and focus on because I am terrible at small talk.  As we all began to get to know one another more intimately, I began to really enjoy serving others, feeding them food they really enjoyed in a welcoming atmosphere.  This wasn’t a church “small group” per se, as we regularly invited friends and neighbors who didn’t necessarily go to our church — or to church at all.  And when we had new people join us, the meal was a much better ice breaker than any kind of cheesy ice-breaker game or question (although those do have value in certain situations).

You see, I believe that meals are a way to remind us of our daily need for God both on physical and spiritual level.  Jesus calls us to remember him and his sacrifice through a meal that Christians call communion.  Not only that, one of the first things Jesus does after being resurrected from the dead is to break bread with the disciples that he meets on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30).  The next morning, when he appeared to the rest of the disciples, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24-41b).   After he ate (they gave him broiled fish….), he went on to speak the most important truths of the Bible to them (read Luke 24:44-49 and you’ll see what I mean).  When we eat together, we commune around these truths.  The word itself is both a noun and a verb.  The noun refers to a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities — a synonym being community.  The verb refers to sharing one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with someone — a synonym being to communicate or converse.  So the meal, to me, is a time that we nourish our bodies with food, but we also use that time to share our thoughts and feelings with other people, which leads to building a community.  And, in our fast food nation, I think this is somewhat lost on people.

In addition to eating, I think it’s important essential to celebrate God’s goodness and grace.  I desire to extravagantly bless others as a way to display God’s glory.  When I serve people, I want to serve them in the best way that I possibly can.  This might be by preparing an extravagant meal, opening the best bottle of wine or just knowing somebody’s favorite thing and serving that.  When you consider Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-11), it is significant that when Jesus turned the water into wine, it was the best wine.  When the disciples gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish back in Luke 24, it was probably the most extravagant thing they had.

Which brings me to the Maple Bacon Breakfast cupcakes.  We have brunch with a group of people on a monthly-ish basis.  Bacon is always a staple and it’s usually a topic of conversation — that is, how much everyone loves it.  So, when I saw Maple Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes on Pinterest recently, I knew that was my next brunch item.  I pinned it to my recipe board and when I went to make my shopping list, was dismayed to realize it was only a picture and there was no recipe.  So, I searched for a recipe that sounded do-able.  This morning, I got up early (not my favorite) and realized that we did not have any butter and had to change my plan.  I decided to use pancake batter for the “cupcake” portion, but was not sure it would rise, so it actually turned into a science project (also not my favorite).

Did I mention I’m not a cook?

For a second, I almost scrapped the entire project.  But, I was honestly driven out of my desire to provide something for this group that they would love.  To be extravagant.   To bless them.  So, I winged it.  And, they turned out fantastic.  Here’s the recipe:

Start by cooking up some bacon.  I wanted to use applewood smoked bacon, but we couldn’t find it.  I would definitely use thick sliced, premium bacon.  I think I did about 12 pieces.

2 cups pancake batter (it doesn’t matter what…I used some that I had bought in Mexico last month and never used.  I actually put it in a carry on bag to bring home and it wasn’t until the TSA Agent started looking at the seals that I thought maybe it was a bad idea….”Hi Dad?  I know I’m 41 years old, but I got arrested for having pancake batter in my carry-on.  And, I’m in Mexico.  I think they think it’s cocaine.  … Hello?…”)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Sift the dry ingredients together.  I think sifting is important when using the batter, because it made them light and fluffy.

Then add the following to the dry ingredients:

1 cup milk

2 eggs

Bacon grease from the bacon you just fried.  This was an afterthought and I have no idea how much I used…maybe 2 tablespoons?

2 tablespoons maple syrup.  This was also an afterthought as I wanted the cupcake portion to have a sweet and savory quality.  I think it was the perfect amount, but I would make sure to use pure maple syrup for best results.  Grade B might even be better, but it’s hard to find sometimes.

Minced bacon.  I don’t know how much I used — maybe 1/2 cup?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s bacon.  More is better.

Mix all of these ingredients together enough to blend them but not too much.  Pour into cupcake papers and bake.  I experimented with the time….I have a convection oven that converts for me automatically. I put the first batch in at 350 for 18 minutes.  This converted to 325 for 16 minutes.  I watched them closely and ended up taking them out at about 13 minutes. I think all ovens are different, so  just keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to determine if they are done.

I ended up making 2 batches, which made 24 standard size cupcakes and an additional 12 mini cupcakes.

Maple Frosting – this is not my own recipe…I just found it online

1 stick of butter

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup (again, I used Grade A, but Grade B might be better as it’s a little darker and has a richer flavor).

I topped them with a piece of bacon and voila!

 Peace to you.  And, be extravagant!

Why yes, I did bring a suitcase to the chess tournament

My son started playing chess last year at school.  They had very good club, led by a chess master.  He learned a great deal and had enough confidence to go to a tournament that spring.  I don’t know what I expected from a chess tournament, but I was completely blown away by the experience.  This is a culture all its own.  In general, it seems entire families are involved in the game.  And it is highly competitive.  The kids are precocious and the parents are largely of the tiger-variety.  That particular tournament went on for hours.  It was pretty unorganized.  My ipad lost its charge halfway through.  I was forced to make small talk for an excruciating amount of time.  Anyone who knows me well knows that any amount of small talk is excruciating for me. I was beside myself with happiness when Jake did not win any certificates or medals and we were able to get out of there before the awards ceremony.

He joined the chess club at his middle school, but ended up dropping it because it’s run by a parent and is really just a free-for-all.  He said he didn’t really learn anything and that none of the kids really took it seriously.  We went to New York in December and happened upon the Village Chess Shop in Greenwich Village.  It’s a fabulous little shop that’s been there for over 40 years.  It’s open 24 hours a day and you pay a per hour fee to play.  I imagine it functions much like a mission, whether anyone involved really thinks of it that way, especially at 2:00am. They told us about the US Chess Center in DC and suggested we look at classes there.

The US Chess Center is fabulous.  Their primary mission is to teach chess to children, especially those in the inner city, as a means of improving their academic and social skills.  The Saturday classes draw kids from all over the DC Metro area and they hold tournaments as well.  The first tournament that we attended here was well organized, but still insane as far as some of the parents are concerned.  They don’t allow parents in the room at all and we are not allowed to lurk and look in the windows during play.  Apparently, sometimes parents will try to give their kids cues — and yes, that’s cheating.  The last thing Jake would want me doing is trying to help him in chess.  I don’t even know which direction a rook can move.  I have seen parents throw fits over whether or not their child is going to play another child with a lower rating.  I have seen parents get asked to leave because they don’t follow the rules.  I once witnessed a little boy — who could not have been more than 9 years old — get berated by his mother because he lost.  She told his that this was not how he was going to get a chess scholarship and made him call his father to explain the move that he made that lost him the game.

Yes, chess scholarship.  They have them.

So parents don’t just ruin baseball and football games.  They aren’t just crazy on “Dance Moms”.  Some parents are just crazy.  I’ve decided that there must be something missing in their lives to have so much invested in how well their children perform in competition.  (Maybe it’s the same thing that is making 50 Shades of Grey end up in the #1 spot on the best-sellers list…)  Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging your child and cheering them on and being proud of them when they win.  But, to place the kind of pressure that I see some kids endure is doing them a disservice, I think.  I always tell Jake that you can learn more from losing than winning.

So, here I am — at another chess tournament.  I’m a total fish out of water.  But, I’ve learned to bring my ipad charger.  Today, I brought two so that I could loan it to a newbie (it’s already spoken for).  I brought snacks and drinks and I have plenty of work to catch up on.  I ended up putting it all in a rolling suitcase because I took Metro in today.  I’ve also spent enough time sitting on the floor to know that a folding camp chair is a good idea as well.  At the last minute, I wore my Life is Good that says “Smile”.  It’s a reminder to myself that this is just a game as well as a not so subtle message to others who get too worked up about this stuff.  Unfortunately, the people who should get the message are not the ones who do.

I want to point out that not *all* chess parents are like what I’ve described.  They are the ones who have laughed at my shirt.  They also are the ones I loan my ipad charger and folding chair to.

Vacation according to Jake

We have been in Cancun for several days now. I’m not sure how many because I don’t know what today is. I know that it is the opening day of baseball stateside and that fact is driving my baseball fanatic son crazy. Truth be told, it’s driving my husband crazy, too. But, there is TV here and as luck would have it, the Nationals are not playing at home until next week, so we aren’t missing it.

This is the second best vacation Jake’s ever had, he says. Spring training in Florida is still #1. It is the best international vacation ever though. And no, it’s not the only international vacation. He’s been to Canada. 😉

We are here with our dear friends, whom we met because our boys became instant friends when they were in choir together in Olympia. They are among the few people that I would spend a week with and the truth is, the trip wouldn’t be as fun without them. Our kids keep each other busy and free from boredom. Apparently, you can get bored sitting by the pool. I don’t get it, but it’s what I’ve been told. The adults keep each other busy and free from throttling our kids when they get bored. It’s been a great week so far. Lloyd always dreads taking me to the beach because he’s afraid I’ll never leave. After this vacation, I think he might have to worry about both of us — meaning me and Jake.

The surf lesson started it. I wasn’t sure he’d like it, but Jake will try anything once. And after he got up a couple of times, he was hooked. After his two hour lesson (shared with his buddy), he wanted to know if he could have a lesson every day that we were here. I also want to take a minute to give a BIG shout out to Dave at 360 Surf School in Cancun. He was awesome and really made the difference for the boys. He also saved Jake from getting pulled out by the current when Mr. King of the World decided that he could go further out than was safe. Dave didn’t miss a beat and swam out to get him as the lifeguard stood by and watched (although I am sure he would have helped if needed). He also used it as a valuable teaching lesson, which made a much bigger impact than anything we could have said to him in that moment. If you are ever in Cancun, definitely look him up.

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Last night, we went to Margaritaville Cancun to celebrate our friends’ granddaughter’s 10th birthday. It was a blast. We all sang Jimmy Buffett songs at the top of our lungs. Jake had his first “piña colada” and shortly thereafter was on stage dancing. Give this boy a stage and he is completely at home. It’s a little scary sometimes to see him embrace the party scene the way he does, but I envy that he is willing to have fun without worrying what other people think. I wish my dad could have been with us. When I was in 5th grade he took me to see my first concert–Jimmy Buffett at the Greek Theatre in LA. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a Coral Reefer Girl when I grew up. I still want to be a Coral Reefer Girl when I grow up. Now, watching my son sing “Margaritaville” while wearing a Fins Up hat made me smile as I realized we had three generations of Parrotheads in the family.

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The best part of the night though was doing Tequila shots with my bestie and then hearing Jake say: “Well, that was awkward”.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“I love baseball. You know it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just beautiful to watch.” Woody Allen as Leonard Zelig.

Today is my second favorite holiday. Easter is first (more on that later). Opening Day of baseball season is second. Our family loves the game. I often joke that my husband decided to marry me when he realized I was not only willing to sit through a 9 inning baseball game, but that I enjoyed sitting through a 9 inning baseball game. It’s actually probably more true than not though. Many of my favorite memories with Lloyd have been surrounding baseball games. We remember, with fondness, watching the Mariners play in the Kingdome, with the roughly other 1,000 fans there in the early 90’s. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was at a time when the team was not enjoying much success or record attendance. I met Lloyd’s sister for the first time in the Kingdome. She was in town and met us there for a game. I also met my sister-in-law for the first time in the Kingdome. Lloyd’s brother had just begun dating her and we went to a game together. As a matter of fact, the first time my step-mother met Lloyd was at Washington State University during Mom’s weekend in 1992. We went to a WSU baseball game. Baseball is part of our relational DNA.

We loved the M’s. I still remember the 1994 lineup. We knew before a swing was even finished that Jr was going to hit it out of the park. I can’t think of Jay Buhner without hearing his batter up song in my mind – “Bad to the Bone”. It wasn’t a banner year for the M’s – far from it, but we could tell they were on the brink. The next year, we went to Spring Training in Arizona and before it was over, we’d decided to move. We returned to Washington, packed up everything we owned — which at the time fit into a small U-Haul trailor — and hit the road. That year, the Mariners won the division. Watching Edgar Martinez hit for a double that drove Ken Griffey, Jr home for the win in the 11th inning of Game 5 was sweet…but sweeter still was that it was against the Yankees. My, oh my. To this day, I can’t sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” without immediately launching in to “Louie Louie”.

Arizona was a great place to be a baseball fan. Spring training games were a blast to attend and we could always count on visitors during that time. I remember taking a weekend trip to Tucson to watch the Colorado Rockies play — I had just found out I was pregnant with our son. In the fall, we could go to Fall League games, paying a mere $5 to see top prospects who could go on to be major league stars. This was baseball at it’s best because the players were there to play hard and get the attention of baseball scouts and team executives.

As much as we enjoyed the baseball that Arizona had to offer, we missed going to major league games and we did our best to attend other games whenever we could. In 1997, I surprised Lloyd for his birthday and took him to see his favorite team, the LA Dodgers. We had a great time and were so in awe of the stadium that had such history (and, at the time, only one advertiser). It was major league baseball at it’s most authentic.

In 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks arrived on the scene. Not only we were able to be at the inagural game, we watched it from the pool at what was then BankOne Ballpark. While I am not a huge fan of what I like to call “Theme park” stadiums, I do have an affinity for this particular facility. I think it’s because of all of the memories attached to attending the games. I remember the people I was with more than the players on the field, but that was okay — they were still among some of my favorite memories. Our son attended his first major league baseball game in this stadium, wearing the first piece of clothing I bought when I found out I was pregnant — an AZ Diamondbacks onsie. We moved away in 2001, the year the Diamonbacks won the World Series (are you catching the theme here?) and while I still have a soft spot for the D-Backs, I don’t really follow them and I still can’t quite reconcile the “Sedona Red” color scheme.

We moved back to Washington in 2002 and since we lived in Olympia, it was harder to attend games on a regular basis. We went to a couple of games a year. We always tried to hit the opening series and it’s a tradition to take Lloyd to a game on Father’s Day. In 2008, we had to buy a fleece hat for Jake on Opening Day because it snowed.

Mariner's Opening Day - 2008

The first gift Lloyd bought for our son was a t-ball mitt. Jake was just born, only 3 pounds. He fit inside of it. Lloyd had dreams of teaching Jake to play and coaching his little league team. When he was in Kindergarten, we promptly signed him up for T-Ball, but he was totally disinterested. He would kneel down in the outfield and write music in the dirt. He didn’t like it and didn’t want to do it. So, we backed off. We can’t make our kids be who we want them to be. We just can’t. Jake would tolerate the couple of games we went to a year for his dad’s sake. He was excited when we surprised Lloyd for his 40th birthday with a trip to Boston. We had tickets to see the Red Sox play the Yankees at Fenway. This was bucket list stuff, folks. I will never forget the look on Lloyd’s face as he walked up the ramp to get his first look at the field. Priceless. But, Jake didn’t fully appreciate the significance. And, he wasn’t a fan of the game. He never watched games on TV and didn’t even show much interest at Lloyd’s softball league games.

Lloyd's first look at Fenway Park

Then came 2010. We went on vacation to Washington DC for spring break with our friends and got tickets for Game 3 of the National’s opening series against Philly. We had great tickets and it was a beautiful day. Sitting in the seats with a cold beer was a welcome change from the miles and miles of walking we had been doing for several days. The Phillies were fresh off of two years of World Series appearances and the Nationals were, well, not that good. A win by the Phillies would sweep the Nationals in this series. The game was tied in the 7th, when Ryan Zimmerman stepped up to the plate, doubled to right and drove in the tie-breaking run. The Nationals managed to hold back the Phillies and win the game. The crowd went wild and a fan was born. Even though we had no ties to Washington DC and the idea of moving here was the furthest thing from our minds, Jake was drawn in by that moment, that player, that team and by the game itself.

Brand new Nats fans

It’s hard not to think that the trip here that spring was preparing us for the move that God was about to have us make. When the job came up, we could picture the city, we could see ourselves here and as small as it may seem, Jake was a Nationals fan. But, that small thing gave him something to talk about with the boys at the lunchroom table and a connection to his new home. He knows the players, studies the stats, collects the cards, makes up games in his head and calls them in the shower and dreams of being a major league short stop. He’s developed a love for the game that is all is own, just like his dad. And, it gives them a special connection. They are anticipating their eventual trip to Cooperstown to celebrate the inaguration of Ken Griffey, Jr into the Hall of Fame. They eagerly await the announcement of the location 2013 All-Star Game. They cheered the extension of Ryan Zimmerman’s contract and they anticipate watching Bryce Harper play in the majors. Just as it was with 1994 Mariners, we see a team on the brink of something big. This may not be the year, but it’s getting close. And, the team is a ton of fun to watch.

This morning, the Mariners and the A’s opened the MLB 2012 season in Japan. Jake was up earlier than he is on Christmas day to try and watch the game. Unfortunately, it was tape delayed and wouldn’t begin until 9am EST, so he was following the box scores on MLB.com. The M’s won 3-1 in the 11th. And, so begins another exciting year. We’re looking forward to the National’s home opener on April 12th when we have begun a tradition of allowing Jake to miss school for the game. We’ll help the Nats “take back the park” against the Phillies in May. We will be there on Father’s Day to cheer them on as they play the Yankees for the first time ever in National’s Park. We’ll have a friendly rivalry with our Chicago friends as we celebrate their daughter’s first birthday at the ballpark on Labor Day when the Nats take on the Cubs. And, then we’ll celebrate our son’s 13th birthday, a day late, when the Dodgers come to town. We hope to add a couple of more ballparks to our list this summer as well, as we try to catch games in Colorado and Pennsylvania. And, then there will be the days when we spontaneously decide catch a game because it just seems like the best idea. Because really, isn’t a baseball game on a summer day always the best idea?

Rivalry Day - 2010

Happy Opening Day. Let’s play ball.

You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.

JOE DIMAGGIO

Life According to Jake

Nothing to report from Free Lunch Friday today. Conversation revolved around March Madness (and the pronunciation of Gonzaga) and St. Patrick’s Day plans. My plans consist of cheering my husband on during the DC Rock n Roll marathon and buying Jake a Shamrock Shake for his 1/2 birthday. I didn’t share those plans with anyone, although if I had, I’m sure I’d have something more to report from Free Lunch Friday.

Instead, I’ll share some recent 12 year old wisdom. I had a particularly crappy day at work yesterday. It’s unusual, really. I can’t remember the last time I had a bad day that was caused by stress at work. It completely wore me out and I was sound asleep before 10pm. When he was headed to bed, Jake said “I’m sorry you had a bad day today. Bad days are…well, bad”. Genius.

And last weekend, we were in Florida, staying at a beachfront hotel. While we were walking out to the beach, we passed by the hotel and Jake said “I don’t get why people would swim in a pool when the ocean is right there!”. Me neither.

Finally, on that same trip, my husband made a comment that he was going to have dessert first because life is short. Jake muttered under his breath that “he’s only in his 40’s. That’s middle age. it’s not that short”. Touché. At least he doesn’t think we’re ancient. Yet.

My True Companion – 19 years later

I have writer’s block.  I have been trying to compose a post in my mind for a few days and now, as I sit in front of my screen, I will type out a few words and then delete them.  I’m not often speechless.  It’s not as though I don’t have a lot to say.  It’s that there is so much to say that I can’t even organize my thoughts.  And, even if I could, the words would be insufficient to express what’s in my heart.

It was 19 years ago today that I married my best friend.  Lloyd came along at a time in my life when I felt more alone than a person should ever feel.  I wasn’t really interested in a long-term relationship.  I definitely was not interested in getting married (ever) and I certainly didn’t want kids.  I did not believe in soul mates and happily ever after.  And, then I met this guy to whom I was immediately drawn.  Yes, there were reasons — he had a “still waters run deep” air about him, he was smart and wickedly funny and yes, I thought he was hot.  But, none of these really explain the attraction.  From almost the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew I wanted him to be part of my life. 

We eloped almost exactly a year from when we started dating seriously.  In retrospect, it was impetuous.  But, we just wanted to be together.  At the time, only one of us had a job (and it wasn’t a well paying one) and we didn’t yet have a place to live.  So, we lived with my inlaws for a few weeks until we were able to move into our own apartment. 

Let that sink in for a minute:  I ran off and married the eldest son and then came back to live with his parents.

I don’t exactly remember the vows I recited that day, 19 years ago.  But, I know they were traditional in nature.  Sickness, health, richer, poorer, we pledged to love eachother as long as we both shall live.  And over the years those vows have been tested as we have faced the kind of trials that even the strongest marriages can’t endure.  And every year, as we celebrate this day, I think that there is no way that I could love this man any more than I do today. But, I do.  I am abudantly blessed to have married a man who loves me despite my failures and short-comings, who believes in me despite my insecurities and who makes me want to be a better person. 

And, he does dishes and laundry. 

On our honeymoon in Key West, FL

19th anniversary - Sebastian Beach, FL

Not my typical Valentine’s Day post

I’m sitting here in front of my computer with about ten things on my mind to write about.  I have to make a choice between posting a random mish mash of these thoughts or focusing on one topic and coming back to the others another time.  The problem is that whenever I do that, I don’t come back to the other stuff.  To spare you from reading a novel, though, I’ll stick to one topic…but to hold myself accountable to the other things, here’ s an abbreviated list of some of the things on my mind today:

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Facebook observations
  3. Religious Freedom
  4. Changes

They are all timely, but I’ve decided to focus on Valentine’s Day.

If you’ve known me longer than 365 days, you know that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day.  It’s one of those “holidays” that people either love or hate or love to hate.  Recently, the Oatmeal posted this comic (warning:  colorful language) and I promised not to rant about Valentine’s Day this year.  If you’re curious about my position, you can read my Valentine’s Day – Bah Humbug post here.  And, then this morning, I asked my 12 year old if he would be my Valentine and he said “I don’t celebrate” and went on to parrot all of the things I have said about Valentine’s Day over the years. My first thought was “Oh no…I’ve ruined him”.  My second thought was “Oh no….my future daughter in law is going to hate me”.  Now, she might hate me anyway, but I decided it won’t be about this issue.  I very seriously told him that unless he is lucky enough to find a partner who lets him off the hook at Valentine’s Day, he needs to suck it up.  Sometimes we do things just to make other people happy.

Truth be told, Valentine’s Day is important to me too.  But, for a different reason.  It marks the culmination of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.  CHD Awareness Week is an annual campaign designed to help educate the public about Congenital Heart Defects. The movement was founded in Feb 2000, just a few months after my own son was born with a Congential Heart Defect.  I have had the priviledge of watching the movement grow into an  international coalition of families, individuals, non-profit organizations, support groups, and health professionals who are dedicated to increasing public awareness of Congenital Heart Defects and Childhood Heart Disease.

The fact is that congenital heart defects are common.  In fact, it’s considered by the CDC to be the most common birth defect, affecting nearly 40,000 births in the US every year.  Worldwide, it is a leading cause of birth-defect related deaths.  Despite all this, a relatively small amount of funding is currently available for parent/patient educational services, research, and support. Even more disturbing is that most states do not require newborn screening for some of the most critical heart defects.  The thing is that many times, heart defects will not show signs or symptoms right away.  Without newborn screening and parent education, babies are at a much greater risk of death or disability from their condition than children who are diagnosed within the first 24-48 hours of birth. My own son’s story is a perfect example of how early detection and palliative treatment can save lives.  If he had not been pre-mature, he very likely could have been sent home and we would have had no idea that he had a life threatening condition.

Pulse Oximetry Screening is a simple, non-invasive way to test a the oxygen levels in a baby’s blood.  While this screening does not replace a complete physical examiniation and it does not detect all heart defects, it can alert doctors to a potential problem and the baby can get the additional testing he or she needs.

I am proud to live in a State that has already passed legislation for newborn screening for congenital heart defects.  But, if you don’t live in Maryland, New Jersey or Indiana, it’s possible that babies in your state are not getting this simple test.  If you are pregnant or know somebody who is or might become pregnant, you should care about this.  Since we all probably fall into one of those three categories, we all should care about this.

If you want more information on congenital heart defects or CHD Awareness Week, visit the Congenital Heart Information Network.  These folks have been working hard for years to raise awareness and their website is full of information on CHDs and ways that you can get involved.

CHDs are not something that happen to other people’s kids or people you don’t know.  If you are reading this post you know somebody with a CHD.

And that’s why Valentine’s Day is important to me.  Well, that and less complaining, more sexy rumpus….

Jake has Tetralogy of Fallot.  This picture was taken when he was 3 and full of energy.  It wasn’t always that way, though.  You can read his story by clicking on the picture.